The City of Methuen is in a financial mess that has resulted in the mayor and city council having to borrow $4M from the state.
That $4M loan comes at a heavy price. That price is state control over the city’s finances in the form of either a fiscal overseer or a financial control board. It also comes with a price to the citizens of Methuen by way of cuts to police, fire, elder, and veteran’s services.
If you read the Eagle~Tribune every day you might get the impression that Methuen’s financial woes are because of greedy police officers making too much money, buying lavish SUVs, and “stacking” the salaries of their superior officers.
The fact is, Methuen is borrowing $4M from the state because it was the school department – not police – who overspent their budget by $4M. Overspending that calls for criminal penalties under state law.
Yet, the daily paper tripped over themselves day after day during this crisis to blame police, even publishing their salaries (and getting it wrong) while failing to publish the salaries of overpaid administrators in the School Department – many of whom are actually getting raises, even while the city is borrowing money, and cutting services to Methuen taxpayers.
What’s worse, in response to the bait and switch propaganda of the daily paper, the city council decided to put public safety at risk by cutting $1.8M from the police budget. This will result in at least 25 patrolmen being laid off.
We believe it is the height of irresponsibility to reward the school department by giving them an additional $4M after they overspent. Not to mention giving them even more money in the 2019 fiscal budget – all the while punishing the police and the public for the school’s misdeeds.
We agree that there needs to be a full criminal investigation into Methuen’s finances and a full forensic audit of all spending in Methuen going back at least five years.
But, we find it more than curious that State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell has called for an investigation of the police, but not the schools, and only after “consulting” with the mayor, city council, and the governor’s office.
We have to wonder why the daily paper, local, and state officials are working so hard to not only reward the schools for overspending, but also shielding them from any investigation when they are the sole reason the City of Methuen is in this mess to begin with.
The whole situation smells from the top down, including Governor Baker’s office which has changed their story on fiscal oversight more than once.
We know deals were made to pass last year’s Methuen city budget, and given the illogical behavior of just about everyone involved we are starting to believe deals are still being made.
It has to stop. Or Methuen will quickly become like Lawrence.
As for the Methuen Police Superior Officers’ Union, you can hardly blame them for negotiating the best deal they could for their officers.
If anyone is to blame for inflated police salaries, it’s the prior Methuen City Council (which includes Mayor Jajuga who was on that council) for either knowing what was in that contract when they voted on it – or worse – not knowing because they didn’t bother to do their jobs and read the contract before giving their approval.